Monday, December 21, 2015

Braised Cabbage and Caraway

    Let's try that again.

   I don't even want to tell you what came before this recipe. Okay...if you really want to know....I was making something totally different,  but I screwed it up. I dumped the dry uncooked rice into the wrong pot, and since there is no way to retrieve rice from a pot of soup, I added the boiling water from the pot the rice was supposed to go in to the wrong pot too, and hoped for the best. It came out okay, but it was not something I wanted to post. It was no longer soup. 

   After that mucked up mess, I was in no mood to go to the market for more supplies, so I decided I would make do with what I had on hand, which was a cabbage and a few carrots. I turned to my Polish heritage, and went straight for the kapusta ( I hope that means cabbage).

   I don't know what inspired me to search my heritage for this recipe. I never make Polish food. I usually go with Indian. Maybe somewhere in my mind, with Christmas day just ahead, I was thinking of babci (grandmother).

   We always spent Christmas Eve at babci's when I was young. The whole family, all the generations were there. The house was full of people coming and going, and the tables were laden with plates and platters of food. Being a shy child, I was always afraid of getting lost in the commotion, so I stayed close to my mother, and observed as the spirit of Christmas took hold, and filled everyone with joy and laughter. 
   I don't think this recipe is strictly Polish, but it is delicious. I am going to make it for my dad to go with all the leftover Christmas ham he is sure to have, and see what he thinks.

   You are probably most familiar with caraway seeds in rye bread.  The pungent little seeds have an earthy, sweet, light anise flavor, with a hint of citrus.  They are related to fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds, and like them, they too marry well with cabbage and tomatoes. 

   This dish is both sweet with the distinct taste of caraway, and tart from the addition of apple cider vinegar. It can be served as a side dish, or over rice. If you wanted to add beans, garbanzo beans would be nice.

Braised Cabbage and Caraway
serves 4-6

1T. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped 
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 medium carrot chopped small
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 medium cabbage finely sliced (about 8-9 c.)
14 oz can of whole tomatoes chopped
1c. water
1 tsp. salt- start with less if your tomatoes are salty
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 T. apple cider vinegar
lemon wedges to serve (optional)
parsley to garnish (optional)

   Start by heating the olive oil in a heavy bottom pot. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes.
   Add the garlic, spices and carrot, and cook until the onions start to turn golden at the edges. 
   Then add the cabbage, tomatoes, salt and pepper.
   Add half of the water and stir this around a bit. Cover and continue to cook, adding water as needed. You can cook this for as long as it takes to reach your desired softness.  I cooked mine for about 12 minutes. 
I suggest not adding all of the water at once, because I like my cabbage with a little bit of structure left to it, and I want it dry rather than soupy. You could cook it until it is really soft  and limp, if that's the way you like it. 
   After it is done cooking remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cider vinegar. Taste and adjust for salt, and vinegar. I like to add a good squirt of lemon juice to my bowl for extra brightness. A sprinkle of parsley and an extra drizzle of oil would be nice too.

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